With the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic in late 2019, its cause has been the subject of much speculation and discussion. Governments and health organisations all around the globe are struggling to answer the issue of whether the virus originated in animals or spilled from a Chinese laboratory. According to a source familiar with the study who was not permitted to share it, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) has recently evaluated with “low confidence” that the virus was caused by a lab leak. This information comes from a person who was not authorised to disclose the report. The study has not been made public, and some members of the intelligence establishment in the United States disagree with its findings.
“there is not a consensus right now in the U.S. administration about precisely how COVID began,” John Kirby, the spokesperson for the National Security Council, said on Monday. In 2021, the United States government disseminated a summary of an intelligence report which stated that five members of the United States intelligence community held the belief that the virus was first transmitted from an animal to a human with low confidence, and that a sixth member held the belief that the first human infection was linked to a laboratory with moderate confidence.
The conclusion reached by the DOE was revealed for the first time over the weekend in an article published in the Wall Street Journal. The article said that the confidential study was based on fresh information and was included in an update to a document from 2021. Some researchers are willing to consider the possibility that the virus originated in a laboratory and then evolved before spreading to humans. Nevertheless, others remain certain that the virus originated in animals, underwent mutation, and then spread to humans.
An evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona named Michael Worobey, who has done extensive research on the origins of COVID-19, stated that he takes such intelligence assessments with a grain of salt because he doesn’t believe the people who make them “have the scientific expertise… to really understand the most important evidence that they need to understand.”
According to Worobey, the United States need to be more open and disclose the newly gathered information that seems to have persuaded the DOE.
The conclusion of the DOE comes to light at the same time that Republicans in the House of Representatives have been using their newly gained majority power to investigate all aspects of the pandemic, including its origin, as well as what they contend were official attempts to conceal the fact that it leaked from a lab in Wuhan. As part of their investigation, Republicans initiated the process by sending letters to several individuals, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Intelligence Director Avril Haines, Health Secretary Xavier Beccera, and others, at the beginning of this month.
Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States, is of the opinion that it is essential to gain an understanding of what took place “so that we can better prevent future pandemics,” but that any such research “must be done in a safe and secure manner and with as much transparency to the rest of the world as possible.” It is possible that the real cause of the pandemic may not be discovered for many years, if ever; this fact highlights the need of increasing transparency and accountability in the work that is done with very deadly diseases.